What is a Craving and How Can I Get Through It?

Addiction is powerful. We can put together some time sober, but inevitably the urge to pick up a drink or a drug strikes us. In early recovery, this is a constant source of anxiety, agitation, and worry. We must remember that cravings are temporary. If we can get through the moment of obsession without drinking or using, we will find that the frequency and intensity of our cravings begin to diminish overtime.
Cravings are entirely normal in early recovery. A case study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, “Cravings or urges are experienced in a variety of ways by different patients. For some, the experience is primarily somatic; for example, ’I just get a feeling in my stomach’ or ‘My heart races’ or ‘I start smelling it.’ For others, craving is experienced more cognitively; for example, ‘I need it now’ or ‘I can’t get it out of my head’ or ‘It calls me.’ Or it may be experienced affectively; for example, ‘I get nervous’ or ‘I’m bored’” It is important for the therapist to get a clear idea of how craving is experienced by the patient.” This “calling out” of the substance to a person in recovery is a result of the neuropathways in the brain related to addiction still being strong, even after the body has been detoxified of illicit substances. According to a 2010 Psychology Today article, “Cravings: When the Brain Remember Drug Use”, “cravings are strong memories that are linked to the effect of drugs on the brain‘s neurochemistry. Indeed, imaging studies have shown some intense brain activation when pictures that are linked to drug use (like a pipe, or a white powdery substance resembling cocaine) are shown to addicts.” It may be helpful to detach from the strength of these memories by recognizing them as symptoms of the disease of addiction. When we are aware that these urges are symptomatic of a disease, we can choose to distance ourselves from them by understanding that “this is not me, this is my addiction speaking.” Healthy distractions, like turning our attention to our recovery program or going to a recovery fellowship meeting, may give us enough inspiration to overcome our urges to drink or use. It’s important to remember that cravings are going to happen in early recovery, but we have the power to control whether we feed into our addiction or continue to take steps forward in our journey toward recovery.

Addiction doesn’t have to control your life. You can choose to change your story and build a happy, joyous, and free life in sobriety. Oceanfront Recovery, a men’s treatment center in beautiful Laguna Beach, is dedicated to providing the highest-quality care to support you on your journey toward permanent sobriety. For more information about treatment options, please call today: (877) 279-1777